Species coding

James A. Blake jablake at ix.netcom.com
Thu Jul 6 17:04:48 EST 2000


Hello folks,

Geoff Read said,
> I didn't comment on the dear old NODC code earlier. I'd be interested to
> know why people think it's still useful, but my opinion is that it's an
> approach that's going nowhere ...

Actually, I hate the NODC code list.  The numbering system is very 
cumbersome and lends itself to making transcription errors.  I only brought 
the thing up because of the unique number concept and a "tongue in 
cheek" response to uninomials.   

I agree it is North American oriented.  It was originally established for the 
purpose of coding the very large databases being generated as part of the 
offshore oil and gas exploration surveys of the 1970's and 1980's that were 
being performed for the U.S. Department of the Interior off California, the 
U.S. Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska.  There are still 
requirements that such studies archive their data with NODC.  The original 
plan as I once was told, was that if someone wanted to know where such 
and such a species was found, then all he had to do was to request a 
search of the NODC data files. Presumably, one would receive a list of 
records.  I know of no one who ever did this and the original purpose of the 
NODC archive (and codes) was not utilized to my knowledge.   

However, other agencies have picked up on the NODC code concept and 
we are now required to have a column of codes linking names.  As I said 
earlier, this is useful with some multivariate software packages, but I agree 
with Geoff, that the binomial is equally applicable in most cases.   

One footnote.  NODC has never been able to deal with provisional species 
names.  As you might expect, we have encountered numerous undescribed 
taxa over the years, especially in our deep-sea work on all three coasts.  
We would usually set up a partial code for something like Tharyx sp. A.  
When this database was submitted to NODC, they proceeded to strip the 
provisional names from the database rendering it completely useless for 
ecological analysis by future parties. In the late 1980's, we were finally 
successful in getting them to archive a complete database along with their 
stripped one. So, presumeably an interested party could obtain copies of 
these databases from NODC. I have heard that that is often easier said 
than done. :-)   

Finally, Geoff should not be critical of missing names.  NODC does not add 
names unless someone submits them.  So, I am quite sure that if a list of 
NZ polychaetes were submitted, then numbers would be generated.   

Jim Blake

______________________________
James A. Blake
ENSR Marine & Coastal Center
89 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA
<jablake at ix.netcom.com>


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